Yesterday, a federal judge repealed a heinous Mississippi law that banned almost all abortions after 15 weeks, saying that the state legislature’s so-called interest in women’s health was “pure gaslighting”.
The abortion ban was introduced in March, by the Republican governor Phil Bryant and was one of the most restrictive in the country. Bryant gave a speech, back in 2014, saying he wanted to “end abortion” in the state. Following the ban, the Centre For Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic.
Now, thanks to Judge Reeves’ ruling, Bryant’s plan has been postponed indefinitely. In the judge’s opinion, he wrote that the law “is closer to the old Mississippi – the Mississippi bent on controlling women and minorities”.
He said that the bill "unequivocally" violated women's constitutional rights and pointed out the medical consensus that states the foetus becomes viable at 23 or 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Reeves also referenced Roe v Wade, the landmark decision that helped legalise abortion in 1973, and the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v Casey.
The judge called out the state of Mississippi for wasting taxpayer money, by choosing to pass a law “it knew was unconstitutional” and endorsing a decades-long campaign “fuelled by national-interest groups”. He concluded by saying that men deciding the fate of women’s right to reproductive health is a “sad irony”.
“The fact that men, myself included, are determining how women may choose to manage their reproductive health is a sad irony not lost on the Court. As Sarah Weddington argued to the nine men on the Supreme Court in 1971 when representing ‘Jane Roe,’ ‘a pregnancy to a woman is perhaps one of the most determinative aspects of her life’.”
He continued to say that, as a man who couldn’t get pregnant or seek an abortion, he could “only imagine the anxiety and turmoil a woman might experience when she decides whether to terminate her pregnancy through an abortion. Respecting her autonomy demands that this statute be enjoined.”
The striking down of this law is especially crucial as the state of Ohio – which is quickly becoming increasingly conservative – is considering legislation that would ban abortion completely, and make the procedure punishable by life in prison or even the death penalty.
But, perhaps, those in Ohio can be hopeful, as the Mississippi victory has already had positive repercussions. The failure of this law has halted a similar Louisiana bill passed in May, which will no longer go into effect, according to the Centre For Reproductive Rights.
Their CEO, Nancy Northup, said in a statement that victory “means that women in Mississippi will maintain the ability to make their own decisions about whether and when to terminate a pregnancy”.
“Today’s decision should be a wake-up call for state lawmakers who are continuously trying to chip away at abortion access,” she said. “Such bans will not stand in a court of law.”